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Clay Holmes’ clutch performance lifts Yankees past Mets

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NEW YORK — It was still the eighth inning, but for all intents and purposes, this ballgame would be decided once Clay Holmes concluded his slow jog across the outfield grass. With the bases full of Mets, one out and no margin for error, the Yankees selected the right pitcher at the right time.

Trusting a sinker-slider combination that has returned to its dominant All-Star form of a year prior, Holmes preserved the Yankees’ one-run lead by striking out Francisco Lindor and Starling Marte. Josh Donaldson’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly thus held as the difference in a wild 7-6 win over the Mets on Tuesday evening at Citi Field.

“It’s fun. These are the types of moments that you dream about pitching in,” Holmes said. “This is always a great atmosphere; Yankees-Mets. To be able to come in during a big moment and help the team win, as a competitor, that’s the type of situation that you want to be in.”

Holmes’ grip on the closer’s role slipped with a bumpy April, prompting manager Aaron Boone to view his bullpen more in terms of leverage and matchups. While that plan remains in place, Holmes has found his electric touch, having held opponents to one run over his past 19 appearances (an 0.47 ERA) while averaging more than one strikeout per inning.

Said DJ LeMahieu, who witnessed Holmes’ 17-pitch escape from third base: “That was awesome. He’s been great all year, but the last couple weeks have been real nasty. Those two batters, that’s about as good as I’ve seen him all year. He’s pounding the zone and it looks like his velo is up, so his arm must be feeling good.”

As this first edition of the 2023 Subway Series opened without Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso in his respective lineup, fans were instead treated to a grab bag of wacky surprises: an early thumping of Luis Severino, a five-run comeback against Max Scherzer, two balks, a sticky stuff ejection of the Mets’ Drew Smith and, ultimately, a Yankees victory.

“This was one of those fun ones,” Boone said. “The buzz around Mets-Yankees, you can feel that in the building. To have a lot of really cool big moments in that game and to have everyone have a hand in it, those are fun.”

On a day when managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said that slumping stars like Giancarlo Stanton and LeMahieu “have got to start hitting,” the duo responded, each homering as part of the attack on Scherzer.

Rookie Anthony Volpe also drilled a pair of doubles shortly after receiving public votes of confidence from Steinbrenner and Boone, who promise that Volpe will remain the starting shortstop despite a .191 batting average. Volpe said he remains unaware of what was said.

“I’m pretty out of the loop on a lot of things,” Volpe said. “I just treat every day the same.”

Stanton launched a Statcast-projected 408-foot homer on a Scherzer slider in the first inning, his 24th career homer at Citi Field, the most by a visiting player at the facility. LeMahieu followed suit in the fourth with a two-run shot (also on a slider) that helped spark the Bombers’ comeback. After Volpe’s double, Jake Bauers blooped a two-run single that chased Scherzer.

“I thought we did a really good job taking advantage of a couple of his mistakes,” LeMahieu said. “He threw some really good pitches to hit. We didn’t miss them, and we strung a lot of at-bats together. That was one of our better innings in a while.”

Severino struggled for the third consecutive start, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings. Brandon Nimmo hit a leadoff homer off the right-hander, who said that he felt his fastball had returned yet generated just seven swings and misses in a 104-pitch effort.

Boone said that he felt Severino “found a little bit of something” beginning in the third inning, even leaving his hurler in with hopes of notching a victory. After a fifth-inning mound visit, Severino allowed a run-scoring single to Luis Guillorme, a knock that tied the game until Donaldson’s sac fly.

“To me, I didn’t get better,” Severino said. “I need to be a better pitcher. I feel like every time they give me the ball, I’m not helping the team right now. I just need to figure out what’s going on, and hopefully I can do that soon.”

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